Councillor Kathy Duff does not know why she didn't receive more support at the June general council meeting. File Photo.
Councillor Kathy Duff does not know why she didn't receive more support at the June general council meeting. File Photo.

‘I think they regret it now’: Water prices divide council

DIVISION within a rural council has been exposed by the recent decision to increase water prices more than 150 per cent.

As the South Burnett Regional Council battles backlash against the standpipe water price hike, the lone opponent with council to the change has spoken out.

Councillor Kathy Duff told the South Burnett Times she does not know why she didn’t receive some support for her opposition of the proposal.

“The main reason I voted against it was because of the drought, and because of the COVID crisis. It was just really poor timing,” Cr Duff said.

“I was also particularly challenged with the Hivesville standpipe because it’s not potable water.”

When the standpipe in Hivesville was first set-up, South Burnett Regional Council received a lot of backlash for setting the price at $4.

READ MORE: PRICE RISE: Water charges skyrocket by more than 150%

Cr Duff had predicted that the 150% price hike was going to be wildly unpopular among members of the community because “it was hard enough to convince them that $4 was reasonable”.

“We are still in drought, nothing has changed in that perspective. We still have people out of water,” she said.

“To go from $4 to $10 for water that you can’t drink, I just thought that it was not fair to the community.”

“With the timing and without any consultation, to me is just too expensive.”

Mayor Brett Otto has since extended an apology to the community for not consulting them prior to the June general council meeting.

READ MORE: Mayor stands by water price hike after community backlash

He has since visited Mondure and Nanango, and will be visiting Blackbutt today (July 6), to consult with the community before the issue is revisited at the next council meeting on July 15.

“We’re also trying to get him back out to Hivesville. There were a few people from Hivesville at the meeting in Mondure, but there wasn’t enough representation for people who were affected,” Cr Duff said.

“I still don’t know why I didn’t get some support from the other councillors. I think they regret it now.”

Division 1 Councillor and portfolio holder for Management, Water, Waste and Waste Management, Roz Frohloff, backed the rise in charges for the water, promoting it as a viable method for create more equity in the region.

Cr Frohloff argued that the Western Downs Regional Council charged an average of $17.90 per kilolitre for their water supply, and Maranoa Regional Council charged $14.20 per kilolitre.

READ MORE: Councillorsvote to slash their own allowances after backlash

Deputy Mayor Gavin Jones added that the price rise would create fairness and consistency across the region.

“I’m sure $10 per kilolitre is a lot cheaper to what they could be facing,” he said.

Cr Duff has suggested that perhaps any necessary rise in price could have at least been approached at a more steady pace, to ensure that those struggling with the drought have time to adjust.

“Maybe if we’d gone from four to five, and from five to six. But just to jump it to 10 was not fair to the community,” she said.